Investor Anxiety Shifts to U.S. Elections as Volatility Returns

Investopedia readers cite U.S. presidential elections as top concern over COVID.

After five months of blistering returns for equities amid the pandemic, investors are still bullish, but bracing for another downturn. That’s the overwhelming sentiment among Investopedia readers according to our most recent survey. We have surveyed our readers every six weeks since the middle of March to gauge their sentiment and how they have been adjusting their portfolios amid the pandemic. Their anxiety has shifted from concerns around the continuing spread of the virus, to the U.S. elections in November, with most of our readers citing that as their main concern. Still, more than three quarters of those surveyed are either bullish or neutral about their portfolio even as they expect markets to fall in the next three months.

Not surprisingly, millennial investors are among the most optimistic about future returns, and have been making moves inside their portfolios to capture them. Boomer investors are overwhelmingly more bearish or neutral than their younger counterparts, which has been consistent since we began this survey in March. They have remained invested in blue chip and former blue chip stocks, as well high-dividend paying companies throughout the pandemic, although many have been conserving cash in recent weeks.

Millennials are putting extra cash to work in their portfolios, but our readers overall are split on whether they are adding to their investing portfolios, or taking money out of the market. Of those who are putting money into the market, more than 80% say they are taking it from their savings or disposable income. Very few said they were borrowing money to invest, which is a good sign.

80% Have Changed Their Investment Strategy

While nearly half of our readers say they are worried about their investments, which has been consistent for the past several months, nearly 80% say recent events are making them change the way they invest. 68% say the market is overvalued, a 7% increase from our survey results in July. 

The Election is Now Their Biggest Concern

Their anxiety, by and large, is centered around the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections in November.

While our readers have no clear indication of who they think will win, 50% of the respondents cited the election as their number one concern about what will impact their investments.

When asked if they were making changes to their portfolio based on the November presidential election, one quarter of respondents said yes.

Those readers who are adjusting their portfolios are leaning further into the sectors that produced the strongest gains in the past five months. More specifically, information technology, tech hardware, and software stocks, continue to be favorites among our readers.

Both older and younger cohorts have added positions in health care over the past two months. Industrials, consumer discretionary stocks, and materials, continue to be out of favor. 

The top holdings among our readers of all ages continue to be the most well known and widely held stocks among U.S. investors. Apple(AAPL) and Microsoft(MSFT) are their top holdings, and those stocks are the most widely held among index funds and the largest ETFs. Disney(DIS), AT&T(T), and Coca-Cola(KO)are long-term holdings of our older readers.

[Research and charts by Amanda Morelli]

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